When President John Kennedy issued his famous 1961 proclamation urging America to put a man on the moon, most people thought only about the rockets and air travel. But some folks realized that, if we ever got there, our astronauts would need a set of wheels.
So General Motors helped build the only car ever driven on the moon.
GM's link to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration began decades before the automaker and Boeing Co. were awarded the Lunar Roving Vehicle contract.
Since the late 1940s, GM's AC Spark Plug Division had worked on military contracts for guidance and inertial navigation systems, initially to guide planes. The project had morphed into guidance systems for military missile systems. AC's Milwaukee operation helped create a Titan III intercontinental ballistic missile so accurate that it was aimed at a specific window in the third floor of the Kremlin.
NASA gave AC Spark Plug the contract for the Apollo spacecraft's guidance and navigation systems. AC engineers were key players in creating the Apollo 11 guidance system for the historic moon landing in 1969.
To give an idea of the difficulty of the telemetric task of sending a spacecraft to the moon, The Wall Street Journal on Dec. 26, 1968, described it as "a rifleman riding a bobbing horse on a merry-go-round and trying to shoot down a curveball thrown in a baseball game a mile away."
They got it almost right. Except that the speeding bullet would have to orbit and then land softly on the surface of the baseball before it hit the catcher's mitt.